Now that sunshine is well under way, afternoon cocktails on the patio and happy hours by the bar have become routine after long workdays. So when NO VA Kitchen & Bar on Rainey Street offered to teach us the secrets to the refreshing, seasonal cocktails we crave this time of year, we were all in. Our team played bartender (and patron!) for the afternoon, and we’re thrilled to share our newly learned mixology tricks today — all with a spring-y twist!
* photography by Taylor Lord
NO VA Kitchen & Bar sits in a renovated two-story modern home on Rainey Street. With its stark white exterior and abundant natural light, the sophisticated spin on craft cocktails and eclectic dishes draw a buzzing nightly crowd. Best of all, they serve up their bar menu ’til 2 a.m!
Every budding bartender needs her tools! We loved the look of these brass jiggers, strainers and bar spoon. You can get a set of your own here.
After aproning up, we learned how to use acidity to offset liquor. Lemon and lime zest not only adds garnish to the final drink, but it elevates the punch of a first sip. Here, we peeled an entire lemon to add to a homemade Hibiscus White Tea Syrup.
Hibiscus White Tea Syrup
- 1 measure of hibiscus flowers
- 1 measure of pomegranate white tea
- 10 measures of water
- 10 measures of white pure cane sugar
Heat tea and hibiscus and let steep for 20 min. Then strain and add sugar, heat and stir till all is dissolved.
The rule of thumb when making simple syrup: When making a drink with a clear liquor (such as gin or blanco tequila), use white granulated sugar in your simple syrup. With a dark liquor (such as bourbon or dark rum), use brown sugar.
Who doesn’t love a sweet aromatic atmosphere whilst crafting a drink? NO VA’s espresso steamer blended our medley much quicker than a stovetop, so we were able to craft our four cocktails in no time.
Hint: If you have a milk frother or espresso machine in your kitchen, use it to blend! You’ll save time and clean-up.
All hands were on deck to make our three springy cocktails! The first group made the simple syrups and fresh juices used in the drinks, while the second group combined all the ingredients to make the final products.
Javier pointed out that salt should never be necessary in a standard margarita recipe! Good quality tequilas — such as Tequila Cabeza by The 86 Company — should contain natural minerals that provide a crisp pungency.
We got an arm workout, too! It’s all about the shake (approximately 20 seconds) to reach a perfectly chilled temperature.
Quick tip on serving over ice (or not) when entertaining: Crushed ice is best — it cools the drink faster. When entertaining outdoors during the summer (especially in Texas heat!), always serve cocktails over ice to avoid reaching room temperature too quickly.
The Tom Collins
- 2 oz Old Tom Gin (or a London dry style is fine)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 hibiscus white tea syrup (recipe on slide 4) or a regular simple syrup
- Club soda
Shake all ingredients minus the soda, then add 3 oz soda and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon slice and luxardo cherry.
The Perfect Margarita:
- 2 oz Cabeza tequila
- 3/4 oz Curaçao (Cointreau works well)
- 1 oz lime juice
- simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and pour over ice. Garnish with lime zest.
Vodka Gimlet recipe:
- 2 oz vodka
- 3/4 lime juice
- 1/2 hibiscus white tea syrup (recipe on slide 4)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and strain into a cocktail coupe with no ice. Garnish with lemon, lime or an edible flower for flourish.
Next we made five different variations of the Old Fashioned, NO VA’s best-selling drink on the menu.
Friends who mix together, stay together!
No shakers involved here — stir and stir with a bar spoon in the mixing glass until the 4-5 crushed cubes begin to dissolve into the mixture of bitters, liquor and citrus.
Wondering when to shake and when to stir? Click here for the answer.
Once the stirred drink is poured, bend an orange peel as pictured to release natural citrusy oils into the glass. Then, rub the peel along the inside edge of the glass to accentuate the fruit’s sweetness.
Spice up your Old Fashioned recipe by pouring it over a fresh apple juice ice block.
In addition to the craft cocktails, we were surprised with a lovely array of NO VA’s bar menu items. How gorgeous is Chef Sorenson’s presentation?
As if NO VA hadn’t spoiled us enough, the sliders finale won us over. Thank you to NO VA’s mixology team for treating us to sips, starters and memorable instruction!
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